Scientists are able to decipher geological clues left on land that show how this area has changed with the rise and fall of sea level over literally hundreds of thousands of years.
“We know that 120,000 years ago, sea level covered the Albemarle and Pamlico. We also know that other sea-level rises caused wave traces as far inland as I-95 and beyond,” said Rummel.
Even in more recent times, the shoreline around the region has changed. The earliest maps of the area from the 16th century show significant differences in the inlet structure of the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.
While evidence of sea-level rise exists, it is a hot topic amongst the scientific community today due to its close correlation with climate change. The institute is heavily involved with climate change research and policy and is uniquely positioned to study sea level as it is most noticeable in coastal regions.
According to Rummel, the sea is going to rise. All that is left to decide is how quickly it rises, and what we are going to do as a society to accommodate it.
“Sea level rise is part of the glacial cycle. We can make it worse with carbon dioxide and methane at the wrong time and the wrong place, but we probably can’t keep it from happening. We can try to mitigate it, but we are going to have to adapt, and to the extent that we fail to adapt we are probably going to suffer,” he said. “At the institute, we don’t sell suffering to people, we just point out that it is an option.”